Home Commentary The Way I See It The Way I See It: This Must Be The Place 

The Way I See It: This Must Be The Place 

There must be a candle in one of our local boutique shops called “Vermont Summer.” If there isn’t, it would be fun to create one, yet perhaps difficult as well. 

How could you replicate the musky smell of a yarrow leaf, with hints of lemon and hay? What about the Vermont state flower — the red clover — with its sweet grapey, subtle yet intoxicating fragrance? Or a potent waft of white pine and balsam fir rising into the nostrils on a humid afternoon? What about the scent of a freshly mown hayfield, with delicate raspberry leaf and purple lilac woven in? 

I was slowly ambling down my mountain road today, taking in this potpourri of “Vermont Summer” and feeling right at home in the midst of intense humidity and early heat. A gentle breeze caused me to raise my nose like a black bear and take in all the molecules of northern forest air. Butterflies danced in the quiet, while I swatted gnats from my sticky face. Common ravens squawked and reminded me I needed to keep moving and head home for lunch.

These lush, humid, lands of Vermont and the east coast were a complete divergence from a recent journey out west to the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. My partner and I had spent months planning an epic vacation to visit my brother in Bozeman, Montana, and spend a few days in America’s first national park. Neither of us had traveled in a while, let alone to a place that stood in such stark contrast to New England. 

Stepping off the plane in Bozeman we were greeted by cool nighttime temps, super warm, dry sunny days, and a landscape of sagebrush and lodgepole pine. Snow capped peaks surrounded us on all sides (even in early June), and staying hydrated was one of our biggest challenges. We enjoyed a few days in bustling Bozeman before heading off to Yellowstone. 

The park itself held all kinds of wild surprises: Sulfurous, bubbling mud pots, colorful prismatic springs, shooting geysers, and baby black bears tussling in a meadow at sunset. We experienced our first ‘buffalo jams’ and ‘bear jams’ — when traffic jams are created by curious onlookers of the charismatic megafauna simply trying to cross the park roads. 

We were truly awestruck by the diversity (and sheer amount) of wildlife and the vast feel of the open landscape. In the stunning Lamar Valley (named America’s Serengeti) the vistas were jaw-dropping with literally thousands of American bison peacefully grazing and gray wolves loping at a distance. I felt grateful to the powers that be who decided that it was important to preserve land to be wild and restore apex predators to the ecosystem. 

It’s easy to become enamored with the west. The palpable feeling of wildness, the expansive vistas, seemingly endless sunshine, and lack of humidity are enough to cause any die-hard New Englander to question their choice of habitat. What the heck are we doing in such a damp, dark place when we could be living in the sunshine and soaking in hot springs all year round? 

Back from our adventures for a few weeks, I find myself in love with Vermont all over again (this probably happens each spring and summer). Despite the challenges of this particular place (and no place is perfect), Vermont’s nook-and-cranny living evokes a deep sense of place that holds its own. Its soft rolling hills and abundant foliage always seem to hold me in the sweetest embrace, no matter how far I roam.

No, I cannot hike up to a remote mountain hot spring for the afternoon, but I have the smiling faces of roadside daisies and vetch, the shenanigans of the ubiquitous chipmunks in the yard, and the melodic song of the hermit thrush at twilight. The song of the loon on a remote pond at night is haunting and mesmerizing, holding a sense of mystery that is perhaps more understated but just as magical as the sight of a grizzly sow with cubs. 

There are so many places to explore, and yet today, this must be the place — a dirt road in Vermont summer, abundant blackberries forming on the vine, with the thought of a refreshing pond swim on my mind. 

The material presented here represents the opinion of the author and does not reflect the opinions of The Bridge. Commentaries may be submitted to editor@montpelierbridge.com. Preference is given to submissions by those who live in central Vermont. Submissions are encouraged to be 500 to 750 words in length.